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Silent Killer: Hip-Hop Can No Longer Ignore Mental Illness

“If there’s a God He’s calling me back home, this barrel never felt so good next to my dome. It’s cold and I’d rather die than live alone.” These words though seemingly cryptic rap lyrics are unfortunately the final tweets that rapper Freddy E (pictured above) sent out before fatally shooting himself in the head earlier this week. In 2012, the headlines seemed to repeatedly rock the entertainment world with news of industry vet Chris Lighty, pro athlete’s Junior Seau and Jovan Belcher and even legendary icon Don Cornelious all succumbing to self-inflicted gunshot wounds all ruled suicide.

According to the CDC, suicide is the #3 leading cause of death among young Black males age 15 – 24. Despite this fact, the subject remains taboo within the hip-hop community.  No one seems to question what the real problem is. When other cases of suicide involved victims of bullying and homophobia there’s media coverage and outcries from celebrities. Where is the outrage over young black men committing suicide?

Is it the perceived cowardice and weakness stigma attached that causes the initial shock to become fleeting? Is it because seemingly successful people aren’t supposed to have problems that would warrant suicidal thoughts? Hogwash! It’s bigger than Hip-hop, race, or class. It’s an issue of mental illness and depression and the most serious effect of depression is suicide. Depression is something that Black people are conditioned to believe is a part of life and not an illness, which is why conversations aren’t had on a level of addressing it as being problematic. Clearly there is a problem.

Let’s face it people love to watch a train wreck, celebrity’s demons are fodder for many a twitter conversation and other people’s pain make the most compelling headlines in the words of T.I. “My life, your entertainment./ My sorrow, your amusement./ Laugh at my pain and anguish./ So famous I could lose it.”

These aren’t just lyrics, this is life. The struggle is real although music can tend to romanticize the situation in a clever metaphor the problem doesn’t end when the video stops.  DMX is a highly esteemed lyricist, whose struggle with bi-polar disorder has repeatedly played itself out in the media only to be met with judgment and ridicule, but there is nothing funny about mental illness and we need to start addressing the signs before we wonder what made them pull the trigger.

Since I run with the devil I’m one with the devil,
I stay doin’ dirt so I’m gonna come with the shovel,
Hit chyou on a level of a madman who’s mind’s twisted,
Made niggaz dreams caught the last train, mines missed it,
Listed as a manic depressin’ with extreme paranoia!
and dog I got sometin’ for ya! hear my name, feel my pain

from “Fuckin’ Wit’ D”
off the It’s Dark and Hell is Hot Album

Before we can address a cause, we must first understand the signs of depression.

These signs include:

  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Headaches, stomach aches, pain all over
  • Chronic fatigue – not wanting to get up in the morning
  • Sadness that continues for up to a month – spontaneous crying
  • Social withdrawal – a loss of interest in activities and things once considered enjoyable

Though the signs may vary from each individual, the fact remains that depression is a curable illness that that doesn’t have to end in death, but it has to start with the conversation. Successful treatment of depression is a realistic goal. The majority of people with depression can get better with treatment. A common approach is a combination of prescription medication and talk therapy, but the first step is acknowledging there is a problem.

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  • TruthSerum

    Because black people still have this make believe fantasy that suicide isnt a black problem. You know how many undiagnosed cases of Bi Polar disorder and clinical depression there probably are in the projects?? I wouldnt even begin to try and put a number on it……

    People need to get over themselves and seek help when they need it. Pride never gets you anywhere but trouble.

    • W.E.B. Du Bois

      Roberto – probably? talk facts! – there is big time depression in the projects – because it should be! – that’s not pi-polar, or medical – that’s being realsitic – the cure is succeeding every day at things that’ll eventually get you out.

      • W.E.B. Du Bois

        Roberto – claims to know a whole race of people – you pobably don’t even know what your own race is.

      • So_Subby

        Why are u talking him? He said nothing wrong and is completely right.

      • W.E.B. Du Bois

        So_Subby – I’m not right? – I said what I said because I’m right – re-read what I typed.

  • Kyle Meta4ce

    Word!

    • Sean Taylor

      Geah…word to ya mutha.

      Im outtie 5000. PACE!!!

  • Reblogged this on The Music Business Revisionist.

  • Martin Raheem

    Please!

    Can we please move forward???….

    I love hip hop. Consider myself fortunate to have been growing up with it since the early 80’s. When rappers was beatboxing, DJ’s was part of the group.

    When skinny pants like YMCA was the -ish with funky beats and so called beefs was done with a *smile*.

    But maybe i am ignorant?

    All Hip Hop (dot) com is my favorite web site, but articles like this is…. backwards…. white people do listen to hip hop. Hear and wonder, they even contribute^^ Hispanic do, and even Arabs (shame on me for mention Arabic witch will automatically make me a terrorist).

    Chinese birthed my own personal favorite freestyle-er “hands down” JIN… or MC JIN…. former RR affiliate, turned christian or whaevva. Dude might be yellow… dude might have funny eyes… dude might be called Charlie, cuz even though Charlie is nikk for a Vietnamese we don’t care. Since when have racism been fair?

    Black is black (we can’t change that). Ummm…. where am i getting at???

    Oh ye…. this article….

    Suicide is NOT a Black problem (have so much respect for Blacks in US even though i never been there).

    Suicide is common by young people, old people, funny people, people who don’t see their own… can’t find the eng name… but maybe “worth” is the word. Im gonna ignore all who think suicide is a cowards way out or selfish…. cuz suicide is JUST tragic.

    And to all you Black People up in US strugglin for Black rights and respect. That fights is good right… but while u focus on that there are a much bigger problem growing in the world……

    KKK has lost it’s patent on racism….

    (i should end my comment there but can’t help to quote an old Chuck D lyric that comes to mind)

    …”… YOU CAN’T SEE WHO’S IN CAHOOTS, CUZ NOW THE KKK WHERE’S 3-PIECE SUITES….”

    all in Kanye caps…. f# me….

    • There was a stat i saw a couple years back that said, in two years suicide has increased in black males by 100%. And nobody is talking about it, especially the people that it’s happening to. That’s the crux of the issue this article is tackling. Every time a white kid gets bullied in school to the point of killing himself you hear about it on the news. They talk about policy change to stop bullying. They start organizations to end bullying with TV commercials, concert fundraisers and the whole 9. Black males have a suicide epidemic and nobody even knows about it at all. Do you see the problem now?

  • Martin Raheem

    Black people

  • Martin Raheem

    White people

  • Martin Raheem

    What about Black people “born” “grown” or “raised” outside of Africa (it’s a continent btw if anyone did not know)? I’m sure there are nooooo (minor %) that will question your “blackness”?

    What about a Somalian girl having a Eritrean boyfriend. Or a half Nigerian, half…. having a Eritrean girlfriend… hehe 😉 now where did i get that from….

    Well…. im sure many “blacks” in US are mixed. What about folks calling you “Rootless” and not having any origin?

    What about if you are “colored” with a white mom and listen to white trash jokes among your friends?

    And what about if your mom is Christian and your dad is Muslim? Maybe that is a even more problematic issue BC 9/11?

  • Martin Raheem

    I can’t refer to any facts…

    But why (what i think) is suicide more common in materialistic countries like Europe and USA, then in “developing” “poor” countries like… (in fear of disrespecting any brother/sister coming from a developing country, just imagine any three country that firs pop up in your head, that YOU think is LESS developed than YOUR country).

    Why was i so upset a decade ago when my beautiful younger sister listened to Marilyn Manson? I still don’t know what to call that genre, but i call it black rock (any true rockers feel free to educate me).

    I ask myself that question. My 25 year old sister turned out very well. What is the point of this article anyway???

    Hip hop music kill young black people? I don’t know? Are there maybe some young black people or successful grown black Men that was actually inspired and thankful for Hip Hop music?

    If so…. maybe the music is not the problem?…. “the struggle is real”… that’s the only thing in this article i co-sign…

  • Martin Raheem

    ..”mental illnes”… plz… this article really got me worked up…. if it was from one of them many racist sites flourishing, maybe i would understand. But this is Hip Hop (dot) com…. the signs of depression are real though….

    If you suspect one of your friends, neighbor, family or even the dude you occasionally cross by in the street show this signs. A smile, a small conversation or just nod may make the difference… but it has no connection to what kind of music they prefer…

  • weak minded people kill themselves…. Pick up a bible and believe in the lord….. Suicides shouldn’t be glorified or even reported they want to be pussies and kill themselves, then good luck in hell

    • This type of attitude is why nobody in the black community seeks mental help. My grand dad killed himself in 2007 and he was heavily involved in the church and community organizations. You are ignorant to whats going on outside.

      • Sorry to hear that but ur grandfather obviously wasn’t paying attention in church to be active and know suicide is murder leading to an eternity in hell and still room that route? Should’ve took ur grandfather to another church

      • get off your high horse you ignorant fcuk. what you are doing is nothing short of irresponsible. You clearly know absolutely nothing about the bible if this is the kind of nonsense that you believe to be true.

      • Wat r u talkin about high horse lol u probably on suicide watch right now lol dont do it my dude ur mom might miss u lmao

      • bytch don’t even try and act like you’re not being all high and mighty. kick rocks chump.

      • Lmao u getting tight nerd face lol he jus learned that phrase kick rocks and couldn’t wait to use it…got tired of people sayin it to u huh lol……

    • The bible is a book with lots of stories. No story in there deals with the hardships of depression and also there is no solution given in the whole book. There are stories about middle eastern shepherd cults, an outdated creation story, lots of miracles and the history of the Jewish people a religious group that considers itself exclusively as gods chosen people. A solution to the here mentioned problem is nowhere to be found.

    • hoeyuno

      your probably too young to have any real life problems.. I’m not agreeing that suicide is the answer to anything but the bible doesn’t fix everything.

      • im 33 homeboy watched my wife die to breast cancer after my daughter was born all of 2 years later so dont talk to me a out real problems my g…. At the end of the day every man and woman heard once in they life god never puts anything on u u cant handle pardon me for believing that statement…. Im here to live not curl up and die when shit goes wrong

      • santiage

        should of cut her titty off.

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  • Q.

    This ultra-materialistic Western culture has bred a new generation of narcissists that have become more superficial than ever. Generally speaking, everybody wants to be famous for nothing, seek instant gratification, and place value in everything outside of themselves. The lack of Knowledge of Self, wisdom and overstanding leaves one more susceptible to the emotional low points of life. It doesn’t really surprise me that there are more young cats offing themselves.

    “At exactly which point do you start to realize
    That life without knowledge is, death in disguise?”
    –Talib Kweli, K.O.S.

  • So_Subby

    This is real, great article, there need to more articles like this. People don’t understand the struggle of depression. You may have saved a life writing this. Thanks

    • hoeyuno

      real talk…

  • mental illness is a serious problem in the black community. the problem is that we don’t talk about it for fear of ridicule and/or lack of support. its like, why express how i’m feeling to you if you won’t do anything to help and make it worse. same thing with people that are gay and live on the down low. doesn’t make the down low lifestyle OK but it does explain why it happens. it also explains why black people kill themselves and nobody sees it coming. i saw a stat a couple years back or so that said suicide in black males has risen 100% in the past two (2) years. wake up black folks, we have issues and we need to take action to help each other!

  • DA BAY AREA

    REAL TALK, I CAN’T SEE SUICIDE BEING A TOP 3 KILLER OF US LOL. I KNOW ONE BLACK PERSON IN MY 25 YEARS ON THIS EARTH WHO KILLED HIMSELF. HE KILLED HIMSELF BECAUSE HE CAME HOME FROM THE WAR AND WAS SECRETLY ALL MESSED UP IN THE HEAD. THE GOVERNMENT FAILED TO SET HIM UP TO COME BACK TO NORMAL SOCIETY.

    BUT I HAVE HEARD OF A BUNCH OF WHITE FOLKS AND MEXICANS KILLING THEMSELVES QUITE OFTEN OVER THE DUMBEST THINGS.

    • hoeyuno

      I’m sure theres some pretty high numbers of military ppls coming home and committing suicide.. the gov don’t give a fucc what happens to them after there finished there tours.

    • Bananacraterican

      Blacks are always bitching about being poor and being “forced” to endanger their lives by selling drugs,instead of getting a job like everyone in normal society . How does blacks splattering their drug rotted brains surprise you in any way?

  • valade8

    Mental illness has no colors idiots. Ur fucked ur fucked we need to curb this shit. I’m a Canadian but watch very closely AmeRICAN SHIT. im not sure if u guys read but damn u have the best nation in the world! And its dying slowly hoop y”all realize

  • valade8

    crazy idea and don’t hate! finish H.S.!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thanks to AHH for this article and special thanks to Octavia Bostick.
    Many of the comments here by our more conservative people here
    mirror exactly, what the text describes.

    But it is even deeper than that.
    I am honest, I suffer from depression every winter.
    In winter especially in northern regions where sunlight is rare during
    times from October until March, we black people don’t get enough
    Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a byproduct when sunlight reacts with our
    skin. Once the skin is black it is thicker, so the sunlight is not strong
    enough to get down to that particular layer where vitamin D is produced.
    that’s why humans closer to the polar regions have developed lighter
    (thinner) skin in order to survive there.

    Many of us who live in the more northern places are dealing with this
    problem. adding up to a lot of other stress we already have in our
    environment.

    And the worst is. Once you have a problem and you need a real friend,
    because sometimes just talking is half of the therapy. You might fear
    your friends will feel you are weak or soft. Because in black society
    you have to prove your manhood 24 hours. This is what makes things
    worse.

    We don’t allow ourselves to show emotions
    We always have to pretend to be hard.
    We are not honest with ourselves

    We can’t even tell people when we are broke.
    Everybody is supposed to show of with things
    we cannot afford.
    Even though we bums we have to pretend we
    are millionaires.

    Honesty is just not accepted.

    • hoeyuno

      yea what u described is seasonal affective disorder.. which is more common then ppls would think. my wife and I both come from large families with addiction problems stemming from depression. this article was real as it gets.

  • hoeyuno

    good article.

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  • to Asher, to say a depressed person can’t find strength in the bible proves u never read it either lol…. The book of job is enough to put anyone life in order that man lost everything and instead of suicide or any other drastic measures, he turned to God so what makes u think someone can’t find strength in those outdated texts as u put it…. Stop letting people run ur mind and pick up the book urself… And of course there is no solution to hip hop depression in the bible hip hop wasn’t around lol

  • You forgot to mention capital steez from pro era. he killed himself just before christmas.

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